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Awarding Of Nobel Peace Prize May Be Delayed Amid Chinese Pressure

  • RFE/RL

Dissident Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence

Dissident Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence

For the first time in more than 70 years, the central part of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony may be postponed amid intensive efforts by the Chinese government to sabotage the event.

Meanwhile, ambassadors from several countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan and Iraq, say they will not attend the ceremony in Oslo next month.

When Chinese writer and pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early last month, Beijing reacted with fury and embarked on an intensive campaign -- both nationally and internationally -- to sabotage the awarding ceremony.

Beijing's efforts appear to bear some fruit, as the prize itself is unlikely to be handed out during the event in Oslo next month because neither the recipient nor any of his family members was likely to attend on behalf of the recipient.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee's rules stipulate that the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize medal, diploma, and award of $1.4 million can be collected only by the recipient or close family members.

Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, has remained in prison and his family members have reportedly been prevented from leaving China along with dozens of Chinese dissidents and intellectuals susceptible of travelling to Oslo.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and friends of the couple told Associated Press news agency that his brothers were under tight police surveillance.

Russian No-Show

In a phone interview on October 12, before she was held incommunicado, Liu Xia said her husband "says he hopes that I can go to Norway to receive the prize for him" but added that "it will be very difficult" to imagine the government allowing her to go.

Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony will still be held in Oslo on December 10 as scheduled, even without a family member of Liu’s in attendance.

It is to include text messages from Liu and perhaps some of his past writings may be read out.

Lundestad said diplomats from about 36 countries have confirmed their attendance.

But diplomats from a handful of countries have declined to attend, including Cuba, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Russia, after Beijing warned governments to stay away from it.

Lundestad said Beijing had mounted an unprecedented campaign to sabotage participation in the ceremony, saying: "I don't know of any example where a country has so actively and directly tried to have ambassadors stay away from a Nobel ceremony."

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Oslo said the ambassador would not be in Norway at the time of the award ceremony.

Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov said at a briefing in Astana that Kazakh diplomats in Norway would also be "busy."

Few Precedents

According to the Nobel's website, the last time no one was able to collect the prize was in 1936, when the German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky was prohibited from leaving Nazi Germany.

During the Cold War, Communist authorities came up with a more magnanimous approach to the Nobel committee's decision to give the peace prize to dissidents.

Soviet physicist and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov Sakharov was barred from leaving the country and collect his prize in 1975, but his wife was permitted to travel to Oslo on his behalf.

And in 1983, Polish authorities allowed the wife of trade unionist Lech Walesa to collect the peace prize in his stead.

written by Antoine Blua, with agency reports
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